Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Singur: CM, Mamata Banerjee, Amartya Sen

The Statesman

Tatas are here to stay, says Buddha

Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, Aug. 5: Taking the fight over the Tata Motors small car project at Singur to the Opposition camp, chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today asserted that “neither the Tatas nor the state government would back out of the project.”
In the same breath he ruled out returning 400 acres of land to the unwilling land-losers as is being demanded by the Trinamul Congress and its allies. Speaking at a party function, the chief minister said for the past few days “new and strange things are being said” and asked why and wherefrom the 400 acres of land would be returned. “Have we acquired 997 acres of land for the project just for the sake of it? The Maruti car project with the same targeted capacity as the Tatas' was set up on 1,200 acres of land.* Work at Singur is now in full swing. Don't worry, the factory will come up followed by more such automobile factories apart from other industrial units,” he said. The chief minister said if the 400 acres of land were to be returned, then the project would have to be scrapped. “In that event what would we tell the 6,000 people who would get jobs at Singur?”
The chief minister appealed to the Opposition to decide whether it wants to engage in “positive dialogue with the state government without harming the state's interests and bringing in irrelevant questions.”Mr Bhattacharjee added that the Opposition was shedding “false” tears for farmers. “Leave it to us to worry about the farmers,” he said.
Former chief minister Mr Jyoti Basu in a written speech accused the Trinamul-led Opposition of trying to resist the state government's industrialisation drive and create chaos. “The state's people won't tolerate it,” he said.
Industries minister Mr Nirupam Sen earlier said cars from Singur are expected to roll out before Pujas. Home secretary Mr AM Chakrabarti also said Tata officials had expressed confidence about completing the project on schedule.
He and the Director General of Police, Mr AB Vohra visited the Tata Motors project site during the day and took stock of security arrangements there.
The Tata Motors authorities were asked to beef up their own existing private security system.Besides, there would be additional deployment of security around the plant, while breaches at various points of the 14 km long wall would be repaired and barbed wire put up. Action would be taken against those intimidating the workers at the construction site, he said.
In the meantime, the Trinamul chief Miss Mamata Banerjee said : “We don't want anyone to move out of our state, but our people should not be pushed out of the state for their (Tatas’) sake.''
Speaking at a function today, Nobel laureate, Prof. Amartya Sen, has also said there was need for discussion on the project.

The Telegraph

Security beefed up in Singur, Amartya Sen stands behind the Singur plant once again

Mamata: Tatas can stay if…
Trinamul sets terms, CM rules out pullout

Calcutta, Aug. 5: Mamata Banerjee has declared she does not want the Tatas to leave Singur, tying her first-ever gesture of accommodation to familiar conditions the government said could not be fulfilled.

“I am not opposed to industrialisation. That is why I don’t want the Tatas to leave Singur. Instead, I am offering a solution…. Let the Tatas negotiate with the state government to return 400 acres forcibly acquired from unwilling poor farmers,” she told a news conference.

“We have already identified a patch of land opposite the automobile plant where ancillary units can easily be shifted,” she added.

The government ruled out returning the land but chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee sought to calm rising fears that the Tatas’ patience was wearing thin following violence and the threat of an indefinite siege from August 24.

“Rest assured. Neither the Tatas… nor the state government will withdraw from there. For the sake of the jobless youth of the state… there will be not only one Singur but many Singurs to host more automobile and other manufacturing units,” Bhattacharjee told a party event.

The statements from the two ends of the political spectrum need not mean that the storm clouds over the Singur project have lifted.

Mamata’s seemingly placatory comment could be an attempt to appear reasonable in the face of criticism that she is against industrialisation and bent on sabotaging the small-car project on which the future of Bengal’s re-industrialisation has come to rest.

By making an unequivocal public commitment, the chief minister is also building a case that the government is doing everything possible to keep the project on track.

However, the fact that this is the first time Mamata has said she does not want the Tatas to leave “Singur” has prompted some officials to spy a thin window of reconciliation.

As of now, Mamata will not talk unless the 400 acres are returned — a condition that, the government insists, will kill the Singur project. “The psuedo-champions of the farmers’ cause are now demanding the return of 400 acres. It’s not possible. The small-car project would have to be abandoned if the portion of the land is to be given back,” the chief minister said.

Bhattacharjee said he was ready to hold discussions but not on “unrealistic demands”. “We are ready to honour the Opposition. But don’t close the path to dialogue by making illogical and unacceptable demands. We want discussion on realistic demands.’’

In response, Mamata said later: “The Trinamul Congress always plays its role as a responsible Opposition and our demand for the return of 400 acres is quite justified.”

Industries minister Nirupam Sen said he had not received “any communication” from the Tatas that they were thinking of pulling out.

“Work is progressing in full swing and 75 per cent of it is over in Singur. The remaining work will be completed and the small car will roll out as per schedule. I haven’t got any communication or intimation from the Tatas that they will leave,” Sen said.

The state government also despatched the home secretary to Singur — which is being interpreted as a gesture of reassurance to the Tatas and warning to potential trouble-makers.

Asked if her party workers would prevent employees from entering the site during the indefinite dharna, Mamata avoided a direct response. “Our purpose is to lodge a silent protest. We are not bothered if employees are able to enter the factory site or not,” she said.

Pullout cost on Buddha lips
- Delhi warned against brake

Calcutta, Aug. 5: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has for the first time spoken about the possibility of the Centre “dragging its feet” on Bengal projects, warning that such retribution would harm the country.

“If the Centre now drags its feet over these projects, let them do harm to the country’s interests,” the chief minister told a party event this evening, referring to the deep-sea port and a new airport for Calcutta.

The deep-sea port is crucial for drawing big-ticket investors to Bengal. But ever since relations between the Left and the UPA government soured over the nuclear deal, there have been fears that the Centre would not show eagerness to cut the red tape around the project.

Speaking out for the first time since the Left withdrew support to the Centre, the chief minister asked: “Are these the demands of the state only? Will it not help the entire region and the country as a whole? Did not the Prime Minister himself announce his Look East policy?”

Bhattacharjee sought to downplay suggestions that the Left’s pullout would harm the state’s interests. “Some of our advisers are arguing that we harmed the state’s interests by withdrawing support (to the UPA). We didn’t give priority to the state’s narrow interests when it came to considering national interests,” he said.

“We are not running a government at the mercy of the Congress or the Centre. Both the Centre and the state government are elected governments. We came to power defeating the Congress. We expect relations with the Centre in tune with the democratic and federal structure of the country. So why does the question of harming the state’s interest arise?” he asked.

Referring to the nuclear deal with America, Bhattacharjee called the Manmohan Singh government a “betrayer”.

“The government betrayed national interests by moving ahead with the nuclear deal, part of its plan to be the strategic partner of the US,” the chief minister said.

Today, CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu, who till now had been silent on the Left pullout, endorsed the withdrawal in a statement read out by state CPM secretary Biman Bose.

“We withdrew our support and voted against the government in the trust vote in Parliament as it was not possible to accept the UPA government’s pro-US policy at the cost of national interests,’’ Bose quoted Basu as saying.

*See Also:

Maruti acquires more land for fourth plant, plans gearbox unit

Singur Revisited

Maruti launches 4th car plant

Maruti may set up gear box plant in India

Reports from The Telegraph: